tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg March 19, 2017 10:00am-10:31am EDT
♪ david: your last name is krzyzewski. it took me a while to learn how to pronounce it. after three years, you had a losing record. mike: a lot of people were calling for my firing. david: you won the national championship. mike: i said we were going to win. i don't know if i really believe that. we ended up winning one of the greatest games in the history of college basketball. david: last year, you won your third gold medal. mike: to have the national anthem being played, there is nothing better than that. david: what are the most important lessons of leadership? mike: at west point, i learned that failure is not a destination. >> would you fix your tie, please? david: well, people wouldn't
recognize me if my tie was fixed, but ok. just leave it this way. alright. ♪ david: i don't consider myself a journalist. and nobody else would consider myself a journalist. i began to take on the life of being an interviewer even though i have a day job running a private equity firm. how do you define leadership? what is it that makes somebody tick? ♪ david: coach k, thank you for taking time to be with us. i call you coach k, but your last name is krzyzewski. when you were growing up, how did you learn to pronounce it? mike: i remember it took me a long time to learn how to pronounce it. we lived in chicago on the north side. my dad was from the south side. during christmas, we would visit relatives, and my uncle joe, who was a chicago police man, when
we would go see him, the first thing when we opened the door he would say, what is your name? before we walked in, i would say to my mom, "mom, what is my name?" she said mike krzyzewski. the reason he asked that is because some of my family changed their name to cross because of ethnic discrimination. they could not get jobs. they did not want krzyzewski. he wanted me to always have krzyzewski. david: you never considered changing your name? mike: no, though my dad did use the name cross when he was in world war ii and when he was an elevator operator in downtown chicago. again, he was afraid of not getting jobs. on his tombstone -- he died when i was a senior at west point -- the government paid, and it was "william cross." we finally had it changed when my mom passed away to say krzyzewski.
david: let's talk about how you got into basketball. you grew up in chicago. as you were growing up, did you say i'm going to be a great basketball coach? mike: i was an all-state player and went to catholic schools. i was the leading scorer in the catholic league in chicago for two years and was recruited, but my mom never went to high school. my dad went two years. when i was recruited by west point, they could not imagine that a polish kid from chicago was going to go to school, could go to a school where presidents went to. i do not really want to go to west point. i wanted to dribble behind my back or throw bounce passes that were fancy and did not want to carry a rifle. david: did you have a division i scholarship offer? mike: oh, yeah. i probably would have gone to creighton, wisconsin maybe, and, but my parents kept putting
pressure. they would speak polish in the kitchen. we never had a house, but we had a flat and they would talk in polish. david: you did not know polish? mike: i did not. they did not want me to take polish in grade school and high school, so that i would not have an accent. because they were afraid -- david: it was not because they did not want you to hear what they were saying? mike: they probably had a number of different motives, but they would put a few english words in there -- stupid, mike. i finally said i would go, and it was the best decision i never made to go to west point. going to west point is the basis, the foundation, of everything i am right now as a man. david: when you went to west point, were the players a better level than you thought they
were? mike: yeah, we were good. bob knight, the legendary coach. we were a top 20 team one of the three years. freshmen were not eligible at that time. we always had a winning record. we went to the nit. the nit was as big as the ncaa at that time. so, we were good. we were very good. i got to be a point guard and captain of the team. david: did people come along and say you have to go into the military, but you're good enough to play in the nba? mike: i was not good enough to play in the nba. david: did you know that? mike: yeah, it's not like it was everyone's dream at that time. my dream coming out of high school was to be a teacher and a coach. i was able to play a lot during my five years of service. i was a captain in the army, field artillery, but i got to play on a number of all-army and all armed forces teams and
travel around the world on temporary duty during that time. david: when you finish your military commitment -- you have a commitment of four-five years. you finish your commitment, then you got into coaching. where did you first coach? mike: indiana, i was a graduate assistant. i was getting my mba at indiana. coach knight was there, and i was there for one year and did not finish my mba. i was fortunate to go back to my alma mater at the age of 28 and takeover. i got to coach at west point. we had seven wins and 44 losses in two years. i had the best start you can get. david: you coach there, then duke was looking for a coach, and they interviewed you. your coaching record the year before you were hired was 9-16. mike: 9-17. david: so it was not that auspicious. so why did they hire you? mike: first of all, they wanted to make a great decision.
you know from your business, a lot of times if you look at one line item, it does not tell the full story. so, we took over a program that was 7-44, and after five years, we were 73-59. david: the athletic director tom butters took a chance on someone he did not know. your record was explainable but not great. did he know how to pronounce your name? mike: he did. i hit it off with him right away. david: ok, so you got it. the first couple of years were not wonderful. after three years, you had a losing record. 38-47. david: were people calling for your firing? mike: a lot of people were calling for my firing, and we have a fundraising element called the iron dukes. during my first three years, i was able to establish a new fundraising element, and they were concerned about me being
there coach. but my athletic director, tom butters, and president terry sanford at that time, said when i was hired that you have a lot of work to do. a lot of rebuilding here. just keep doing it. so, i was never worried, whether i was naive or whatever, and the next year we turned it around and it went crazy. it is one of the reasons i stayed at duke. they were loyal to me. i love duke, but i am a big people guy, you know? if you are honest with me, you trust me, believe in me, i am going to be committed to you, and that is how i felt about this university. ♪ david: because you are so successful, a lot of people root against you. mike: our sport is an intimate sport. you play in shorts, people can see you, and they are right on top of you. if i can see five guys in the front row of some arenas who
better. ♪ david: so you turned it around and then won a national championship for the first time in 1991. mike: right. david: to do that, you had to be a team that crossed you in 1990, unlv. what was that like preparing your team for that? 45 in a rowad won going in. a lot of people felt they were one of the greatest teams in the history of sport, but we were good, too. our two best players stayed on the team, and then we added a player who was better than everybody in grant hill, because unlv had beaten us by so much, i'm not sure they had the edge that we did. so, we ended up winning one of the greatest games in the history of college basketball, but it was not the championship game. so now, psychologically, we have to get ready 48 hours and beat kansas, and we were able to turn that around to where they were thinking of kansas, and we won
our first one. david: the next year you came against kentucky in the final. that became one of the greatest games ever played. can you recount what happened at the end? mike: it was really a back-and-forth game, and they went ahead 102-101, so our guys called a timeout with 2.1 seconds. we were down by a point, and when all the guys came in -- i think the very first thing a leader has to show is strength, so i met them as they were coming to the bench and i said, "we are going to win. we are going to win." i don't know if i really believed that, but i kept saying it. then, we sat down, and a lot of times it is good to ask a guy to do something instead of telling them, so grant hill, i said, can you throw the ball 75 feet? he was going to inbound the ball, and he said, yeah, i can do that. i said, i want you to throw a ball and i'm going to bring a
player to the top of the key, and i looked at him, very confident, very cocky, and i said, can you catch it? he said, "coach, if grant throws a good pass, i will catch the ball." i said, "well, he throws it, you catch it, and i'll have two guys run this way, maybe don't have a shot, hit one of them and less see what happens." so he threw it, then he caught it, dribbled once, which your heart sinks because -- david: he is not a famous dribbler? mike: no, there are only 2.1 seconds. he had enough courage and knowledge when he put it in, then he shot the ball and it went in. >> there is the pass to laettner. he puts it up. [cheering] david: you went on to win the national championship. the last championship you won,
2015, you are basically playing freshman. how did that happen? mike: it was a most unusual year. three of the freshman went pro after that. they were early. they were one and done. they did not really care about their own stats. if you can find people who are into winning -- david: you mention the phrase one and done, and for those who are not basketball aficionados, that refers to the fact that you have to play at least one year of college before you can play in the nba. mike: and be 19. david: are you a supporter of this one and done rule? mike: it does not make any difference. we have no control over it. what you have to do is like what you do in business -- you have to adapt. you are not only adapting to different players over 40 years as a coach, but also adapting when guys leave and the age of the team, how you teach our culture.
so, grant hill, laettner, and hurley, if they were here today, i know mr. and mrs. hill -- some probably would have gone after one year. but now, that has changed. it is a different thing. david: let's talk about recruiting. mike: i work harder on recruiting now than i have ever worked, because you have to do it more often. to recruit the top players -- you don't know if they will be one and done, but they will go early. the really good ones will go early. so, that means you have to do it over and over, and it is not so much what you do at their home. before you get to their home, it's what you do on social media, the texting, how you communicate the relationship building. relationship building is so much different now than it was then,
and that whole landscape has changed dramatically where many nights you go home and you are texting 17-year-olds. david: let me ask you about the overall program you have built. now, you have a situation where duke is considered royalty in college basketball. as a result of that, because you are so successful, a lot of people root against you. do you take it personally? mike: no, i never take any of that personally. i think that is useless to do that. you can't run your life based on that. i think though those people respect you, and they respect me and my program. our sport is a very intimate sport. you are playing in your shorts, and people can see you. they are right on top of you. so it is not like what the papers say as much as during a game where people can say the worst things imaginable. i cannot say them on the show.
they have to be hard-nosed enough to take that. i get that, too, but i'm older. i can laugh it off. i can see five guys in the front row of some of the arenas who look like doctors or lawyers, and they are giving you finger signs and telling you different things and i say, whoa, where did that come from? ♪ david: last year, you win your third gold medal on behalf of the united states. mike: i love duke. college basketball has been my life, but when you win a gold medal and have those guys with medals around the necks and your national anthem being played, there is nothing better than that. ♪
westbrook and all these guys, and we sit around and say how will we live. we talk about fundamental things, communication. we will look each other in the eye and tell each other the truth. we will have each other's back. we will show strong faces, never late, be enthusiastic, win and lose together. those are great standards. ♪ david: let's talk about the olympics. last year, you won your third gold medal on behalf of the united states. mike: the biggest honor, david, is representing your country. i love duke, college basketball has been my life, but when you win a gold medal, world championship, or the olympic gold-medal, it is the whole world, and we respect the world. basketball around the world is unbelievable. to have those guys with medals around their neck and the national anthem being played,
there is nothing better than that. david: initially, you were the assistant coach to the 1992 so-called dream team. for those who do not really follow basketball, at that time it was professionals who played at the olympic level. 1992 was the first time professionals played, and those who played were michael jordan, magic johnson, larry bird among others. what was it like to coach that team? mike: it was literally a dream. it set off an explosion worldwide for basketball. now, different players when they were seven years old or eight years old were watching, and it exploded. to be with them would be like if you are in music and have the best singers all on one team, the best musicians, and true professionals. david: so when you coached that team 11 years ago, you won the olympic gold. what was it like saying to
professional players, let me tell you how to do something? mike: you say this is how i want you to do something a little bit differently than college players. one, they are professionals. the other thing is they have a wealth of experience. when i am coaching college kids, they will adapt to me. i am teaching them to change their limits to get better as a unit and individually. when i am with lebron james and kobe bryant and chris paul and all these guys, they are already accomplished. i want to know their best practices, and my best practices, and what we do, it becomes our best practices. so, we do a lot of adapting -- i think, david, a keyword is to create ownership, where everybody owns it and where they feel like they are not playing
for the u.s. they are the u.s. in order to get that feeling, we incorporated a lot of work with our military, so they can get a feeling of what it was to serve our country. no greater part of our society than the military to teach that. david: so the three olympic teams you have coached, how would you compare them to the dream team? mike: the dream team in their prime -- there are 11 hall of famers on that team. in their prime, there is no team like that. the beijing team was really good. they could hold their own, but there is no team with the accomplishment in their prime that was better than the dream team. david: did you ever think you could lose? mike: i think we can lose every game. if you don't think you think you can lose, you're not prepared to win. in the pros, they don't play one
and done. so, in your mind, you can play poorly in a game and get a chance. there are no second chances in olympics or world championships. david: so, when you are coaching an olympic team today, would you say it is possible if we only had college players to win the olympics? mike: no, there is no way. there is absolutely no way our college kids could beat the international teams. the international teams are too good. a number of the international teams would be playoff teams in the nba. about 25% of the nba is international. no way, because you are playing men. we would get killed. david: if you had to pick among the pro players you have coached, who would you say is the most competitive player you have ever coached? mike: wow. they would not get to where they are -- probably the two biggest assassins were when they look at you, you feel like, ok, i'm going to lose this guy, where michael jordan -- i think jordan
is the best player ever -- and kobe bryant. their preparation and their ability to just focus is off the charts. you can take lebron james being one of the most talented and smartest. chris paul, kevin durant -- durant has been the leading scorer in the u.s. and the three competitions he has played in. david, one of the things i have admired from all those guys as they understood it wasn't about them. you hear expressions like leave your egos at the door, and i always told them to not leave your egos at the door, because i want you to be lebron and kobe, but when you come in, can we play for one ego? can we play for the u.s.? thank god they did. david: what would you say are the most important lessons of leadership you have learned? mike: the very first thing is
that to get better you have to change limits. when you change limits, you are going to look bad and fail. when you're not back, figure out -- knocked back, figure out why and change. the other thing is that you will not get there alone. be on a team. surround yourself with good people, and learn how to listen. you are not going to learn with you just talking. and when you do talk, converse. don't make excuses, you know? figure out the solution, and you don't have to figure it out yourself. to me, that is what we have tried to build our program on for the 42 years now that i've been a coach. david: what you have done in the community is you have started a program named after your mother, emily krzyzewski center. what does that do? mike: it is 10 years old now and
services about 1500 kids a month, and every one of the kids who has gone to the program has gone to college. it has been fantastic. i am really proud. i was first-generation college for my family. david: so was i. mike: also, to honor my mom, to let all those kids know that the love of parents and stuff that your parents did to put you in a position to maybe take advantage of some of these opportunities. david: final question, what would you like to have as your legacy or what you see as your legacy for having done what you done in your career today? mike: i let other people define that. i just like to work hard every day, and i love what i do, and make every day like it is my first day, but with the experience of 42 years. that i was hungry every day.
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